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Most undergraduates have no opinion of Undergraduate Council of Students

Lack of opinion up from last year, Undergraduate Council of Students says it has initiatives to increase awareness

Just over half of undergraduate students have no opinion on the Undergraduate Council of Students, while 38.8 percent strongly or somewhat approve, according The Herald’s fall 2019 poll.

This semester’s no opinion rate of 53.3 percent increased slightly from 49.9 percent in the spring, revealing a slight upward trend from the 48.9 rate in fall 2018.

The percentage of students with no opinion “obviously isn’t ideal,” said UCS President William Zhou ’20, but he is not worried about the “marginal difference” in the no opinion rates each semester. “We want people to be engaging with the student government, and also hopefully have a positive view on what we’re doing.”

Ben Spiegel ’21, who said he has no opinion on the Council, has seen UCS’ name around campus, but does “not know what they actually do.”

Zhou said he hopes that some of the initiatives the Council has started this semester “will lead to more awareness in the spring.” These new initiatives include revamping UCS’ weekly newsletter, creating the first-year representatives’ position and implementing club liaisons with student groups.

Sofia Mason ’21 said UCS “should be doing a better job of getting themselves out there and making sure people on campus know what they do.” She added that she receives UCS’ emails but does not read them because they are “very long and everyone’s busy.”

The Communications committee is brainstorming ways to advertise UCS events through new channels, including Today@Brown, posters and social media, said Co-Communications Director Nadia Goldberg ’21.

The Council also plans to bolster its social media presence to improve how information about UCS is disseminated to the student body, Zhou said.

“The idea of all of that is to try to recruit people to UCS events even if they haven’t had UCS experience in the past,” Goldberg said.

The poll results also revealed that the no opinion rate decreases by class year — 37.3 percent of first-years said they had no opinion compared to 13.8 percent of seniors.

“When I was a first year and I came to Brown, what UCS was doing was not necessarily the top thing on my mind,” Zhou said. But this trend is “encouraging” because “it means that over time, people … have seen the impact that UCS has been able to create on campus.”

Zhou said he hopes the new first-year representatives will advocate on behalf of first-years and act as a resource by increasing channels of communication. The first-year representatives recently introduced themselves and their goals to the Class of 2023 via email, he added.

Meggie Baron ’23 voted for the first-year representatives’ position earlier this fall, but said she has a “limited opinion” on the Council.

“I just don’t think they have that much power to make that much change,” she said. “They say all these things that they’re (going to) try to do … but I don’t think any of it really comes to fruition.”

First-Year Representative Zane Ruzicka ’23 said that the Council plans to engage students with a “renewed motivation” to ensure that students understand UCS’ role and ability to advocate on behalf of students.

“If we are able to solve problems and publicize that we have solved those problems, then people will recognize that we are a viable and active avenue to solving problems on Brown’s campus,” he added.

Ruzicka plans to hold open hours in the Stephen Robert ’62 Campus Center alongside First-Year Representative Joon Nam ’23 to engage first-years on selected topics each week.

The poll results “surprised me and alerted me to the fact that we do need to work a lot on engagement,” Nam said. Nam will use the Council’s fall poll to gather feedback about topics first-years care about, he added.

The Council will also hold “Chip in on the Conversation” sessions, a project introduced in the spring which invites students to converse with UCS members around campus and aims to “put our presence out there and make us just more visible to the overall Brown population,” Goldberg said.

The poll results “made me just want to work even harder to make sure that … people know what UCS is doing,” she added. “Whether or not they support UCS is going to differ person to person, but I do think that it’s really important that the student population knows what UCS is up to.”


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